"'Housing for soiled folks' is again and I welcome it"

Deck-access housing has unfairly develop into an emblem for city squalor within the UK, however a brand new wave of architects is demonstrating its deserves, writes Rory Olcayto.

As Miles Glendinning and Stefan Muthesius convincingly argue in Tower Block, their 1994 guide on post-war housing, there “has most likely by no means been one other function in UK public housing which has been so extensively criticised” as deck entry to blocks of flats. Typically referred to as “streets within the sky”, decks had been a typical technique of separating pedestrians and automobiles in Nineteen Sixties social housing initiatives however quickly got here to be seen as spirit-sapping hotbeds for anti-social behaviour. Some had been even demolished inside years of completion.

This negativity is so ingrained that anybody acquainted with British crime dramas, from Luther to Line of Obligation, will know that deck-access housing has develop into a shorthand for city dystopia. Channel 4 even filmed a brutalist model of its brand floating in a run-down walkway on the Aylesbury Property, with seemingly no regard for the residents nonetheless residing within the modernist neighbourhood.

Deck-access housing has develop into a shorthand for city dystopia

The British structure career, regardless of pioneering the deck-access block greater than another bar the Dutch, could possibly be simply as cruelly dismissive. Former RIBA president Lancelot Keay, a social housing pioneer in Nineteen Thirties Liverpool, referred to as it housing “for soiled folks”. To today, insurers and mortgage lenders regard deck-access houses with warning and planners advise towards them.

But a few of the most interesting modernist housing within the UK, from Park Hill to Dawson Heights, is deck entry, as are many extra workaday schemes housing tons of of 1000’s of people that use elevated walkways to get to and from their entrance doorways daily with out incident – and even fairly get pleasure from doing so. This isn’t a narrative, nevertheless, that lends itself to nuance.

Alternatives to design deck-access public housing had been killed off within the Eighties after plenty of high-profile structural failures within the prefab design of such estates, in addition to Alice Coleman’s skewed 1985 report Utopia on Trial – mentioned at size in a latest piece from Anna Minton – which linked them to social unrest.

So why, after a 30-year hiatus, is the typology – the once-ubiquitous answer for mid-rise mass housing in England – having fun with a comeback, with the likes of Haworth Tompkins, Apparata and RCKa main the drive?

That’s the query we’ve sought to reply in The Deck Entry Housing Design Information. Co-authored by Andrew Beharrell and with a foreword by Owen Hatherley (a proud deck-access dweller himself), the guide features a historical past of this evolving housing sort, latest British and European case research, and sensible steerage produced by Pollard Thomas Edwards’ data hub.

The brief reply is that the revival was kickstarted, considerably surprisingly, by former mayor Boris Johnson’s 2009 draft of the London Housing Design Information. It pressured a choice for dual-aspect houses and cited deck entry as a viable technique of attaining this, linking the suggestion to a name for an acceptable vernacular.

A lot of the architects had been function had been too younger to have practised within the “peak deck” period

A lot of the architects we function – Stirling Prize-winners Haworth Tompkins, Maccreanor Lavington and AHMM, finalists Mae, HawkinsBrown and Henley Halebrown, plus a bunch of different civic-minded studios from Pollard Thomas Edwards and Levitt Bernstein to Collective Structure and RCKa – had been too younger to have practised within the “peak deck” period of the ’60s and ’70s, getting into a career formed not by the general public good however by market economics.

Nostalgic for the public-spirited modernism practised by their Boomer-age mentors, this new “faculty” of architects took up the mayor’s problem, defining an anti-iconic housing fashion – the New London Vernacular (NLV). Simply tailored to deck entry, NLV was pitched as a de-risked developer technique solid within the wake of the 2008 monetary crash: simpler to price, design, construct and promote, and, because of this, higher at offering correct land values than the icon-led regeneration initiatives of the Tony Blair years.

There’s a dose of coverage too, in NLV’s formulation. For instance, the London Housing Design Information did not truly say “use brick” but it surely did, as Hatherley notes in his essay Constructing the Austerity Metropolis, “place nice stress on that floating signifier, ‘context’ – which in London means bricks”.

The information additionally referred to as for “tenure-blind” housing with welcoming entrances and spacious balconies, options recognized by David Birkbeck and Julian Hart in a 2012 report for City Design London (UDL), which strove to outline the rising fashion. And so, whereas post-war deck-access housing was applied to allow the separation of pedestrians and automobiles, right this moment it is meant to offer dual-aspect houses in high-density housing and grant every dwelling a entrance door.

Not like the extra dynamic continental exemplars, the British initiatives seem conservative at first look. The European case research with lengthy decks and intensive use of timber, for instance, would not be allowed within the UK. However a better look reveals appreciable vary: Henley Halebrown’s playful bridges, arches and loggias; Matthew Lloyd Architects’ new houses harmoniously blended with the historic Bourne Property; Haworth Tompkins’s brick facades for the Silchester Property that construct on the custom of early philanthropic dwellings.

Not each British exemplar is NLV: Murray Grove, the oldest of them, is pre-fabricated high-tech, whereas the uncovered concrete of Apparata’s A Home for Artists recollects James Stirling’s muscular Seventies deck-access scheme in Runcorn. Our retrofits embody plenty of eras and constructing varieties: Park Hill’s non-public sector makeover, a remodeled barracks in Greenwich and a horse stables with cobbled decks reworked by Collective Structure to offer inexpensive houses to lease in Glasgow.

Deck entry means dual-aspect houses with cross-ventilation

Elsewhere, RCKa’s timber lattice-wrapped stair tower and winter gardens in Seaford present a robust foil to its brick-clad avenue elevation, whereas DO Structure’s stark reinvention of the Glasgow tenement ploughs its personal furrow.

“Housing for soiled folks” is again and I welcome it, particularly in comparison with alternate options like residential towers: deck entry means dual-aspect houses with cross-ventilation, daylight from each side and number of outlook. Each dwelling has a “recent air” entrance door lending an enhanced sense of identification in addition to the well being advantages of elevated contact with the skin world. And a well-planned scheme can yield round 300 houses per hectare too. As Hatherley writes in his foreword: “A very good deck is a delight – a brand new approach of strolling by means of town, a convivial and neighbourly area, a kind of second balcony shared together with your neighbours.”

Thus far, most new deck-access housing has been developed by city inexpensive housing suppliers on comparatively small plots. Giant-scale housing developments are usually delivered by consortia of business home builders and huge nationwide housing associations on the extra conservative finish of the design spectrum, and plenty of are sceptical about deck entry. This may certainly change in response to planning necessities for dual-aspect flats and the expansion of factory-built housing. Till then, the exemplars in our deck entry information – one of the best in Britain and past right this moment – present how it may be carried out.

Rory Olcayto is a author and critic at Pollard Thomas Edwards and has written and edited a number of books on structure. The Deck Entry Housing Design Information is printed by Routledge, with a launch get together going down in London on 29 March.

The photograph, displaying the Park Hill property in Sheffield, is by Jack Hobhouse.